The Silver Year: Chapter 19


Chapter​​ 19

I Heard My Soul Singing Behind a​​ Leaf



“Now repeat after me,​​ zum wohl,” their​​ tour group’s​​ German​​ sommelier said​​ as he raised up a shot glass of wine​​ at the other end of the long, candle-laden table.​​ 

Zum wohl,” everyone repeated.

“Zis is zee proper way to toast zee wine. It means to good health and zee way it has been done for​​ over four hundred years in zis wine​​ cellar,” he said gesturing to​​ the​​ underground​​ cylindrical chamber​​ lined with oversized wine barrels and soft lighting.

From​​ the low​​ chatter​​ patting​​ the​​ cellar​​ walls it seemed Amsterdam had made friends of everyone​​ in​​ Walter’s​​ absence.​​ Even Curt and Kourtney had new friends​​ they were conversing with​​ instead of​​ him. But​​ he​​ had​​ gone out of his way to sequester himself​​ from them​​ since boarding the bus earlier in Amsterdam.​​ Although they tried​​ talking​​ to him, he told them he was too tired, then pretended to sleep or actually slept with his earbuds​​ in​​ for the entirety of the trip to St. Goar.​​ He just needed time to find words again.​​ Everything felt different about himself. Not so much he’d been changed, but exposed,​​ and someone forgot to stitch the skin back on.​​ Now it was “real life” that felt like a dream, while his night with Shiva​​ felt like the first time he’d been living.​​ There seemed no point to the trip now. It wasn’t about writing a book, paying tribute to Amber,​​ or any of the reasons he thought he came on this trip for. The reason was​​ Shiva.

So why​​ then​​ had he not turned himself into the police? Why​​ was​​ he​​ here​​ instead of with her? No​​ one​​ cared about him here, not even Curt and Kourtney. But who could blame them for not wanting to be around someone they were constantly having to talk off ledges?​​ Maybe it was time​​ he​​ just​​ jumped.​​ The universe had given him his​​ opportunity​​ for love​​ and he walked away because he was afraid. He was a coward.​​ He was pathetic.​​ The world was tired of Walter Huxley and his whining. He should​​ just​​ go down​​ to​​ the river, walk in and drown.

Silently boiling over​​ inside, Walter​​ excused himself to​​ go​​ to​​ the restroom, but instead went upstairs and out the​​ cellar door, toward​​ the​​ river.​​ 


From the​​ darkness of the​​ cellar,​​ Walter​​ emerged​​ into twilight​​ light​​ atop one of the many​​ steep and​​ narrow​​ brick​​ roads​​ of​​ the small German town of​​ St. Goar.​​ The streets were silent and the shops were closed as much of the citizenry were out of town for the upcoming Corpus Christi holiday.​​ Located​​ in the lush and historic Upper Middle Rhine Valley, the​​ surrounding slopes​​ were dotted​​ in​​ medieval​​ castles and​​ vineyards,​​ and​​ the town itself kept​​ a​​ comparable​​ medieval, gothic​​ character.

Down by the​​ river,​​ he​​ hiked​​ up​​ his pants and waded into the water. In front of him,​​ passing​​ cargo ships plunged in and out of​​ the setting sun​​ wedging​​ itself​​ into the​​ wide river​​ gulch,​​ spilling​​ its​​ blood-orange​​ innards​​ over​​ the​​ storied and fertile​​ hills​​ that had been battled over since the time of the Romans.

Momentarily​​ forgetting​​ his​​ present-day​​ woes​​ in​​ imaginations of the past,​​ he​​ stayed standing in the river​​ until​​ it​​ swallowed the sun whole.​​ Then​​ when​​ the stars began opening their eyes,​​ he​​ returned​​ to the river​​ shore​​ to ruminate in them as​​ it​​ had​​ been a long time since he could see and communicate with​​ so many.​​ But as his eyes adjusted to the light of the dark diamond sea, he noticed he was not alone in his stargazing. Up on a grassy​​ knoll​​ just adjacent to him​​ was Kourtney.

“I was wondering when you were going to notice me,” she said​​ as Walter walked over​​ and sat​​ beside​​ her.​​ 

“How long have you been here?” he asked.​​ 

“Oh about as​​ long as you. I​​ followed you​​ to​​ make sure you​​ weren’t​​ going​​ to drown yourself.”

He​​ laughed. “How’d you know?”​​ 

Happy people don’t​​ isolate themselves from their​​ friends all day,​​ suicidal people do.​​ But​​ furthermore, last​​ night​​ you told me you were going to the ‘restroom’​​ then​​ disappeared for the entire night only to reappear on the bus today a completely different person.​​ So​​ either​​ the real Walter​​ got abducted by aliens last night and you were coming down here to go back to your spaceship, or, by the look on your face when you left,​​ you were​​ coming down here to drown yourself.​​ Either way, I’m not letting​​ you out of my sight​​ again​​ until I find​​ out​​ what happened last night, because​​ something​​ happened last night.”

​​ He​​ took a few moments before responding.​​ “Yes,” he​​ then​​ said,​​ “a lot happened last night, so much so I’m still trying to tally it up​​ and that’s why I haven’t said anything. And​​ I'm not​​ really​​ suicidal,​​ sometimes​​ I​​ just​​ need to​​ idle insignificantly in​​ suicide’s​​ waters to​​ soothe​​ the desire. That’s​​ why I came down​​ to the river,​​ to​​ soak in​​ a little​​ perception​​ and find an explanation for what happened last night. Because to be honest,​​ last night​​ still​​ feels​​ unexplainable.”

“And the​​ soak​​ didn’t​​ help?”​​ Kourtney​​ asked.

“I no longer feel like killing myself,” Walter said. “However,​​ as far as finding an​​ explanation,​​ no.​​ I was too distracted by​​ that​​ sunset​​ to think about​​ last night, which is probably good​​ because I’ve been thinking about last night all day.​​ That​​ might’ve been the most beautiful​​ sunset​​ I’ve​​ ever​​ seen.”

“And to think we had it all to ourselves.”

“Where’s everyone else?”

“At​​ the hostel’s​​ pub.​​ It’s the​​ only​​ place open in town.​​ Don’t know how they could​​ be​​ though with this on our doorstep.​​ This view​​ is​​ much​​ better​​ to​​ drink​​ to.”​​ She​​ held​​ up​​ a​​ bottle of the​​ town’s exclusive ice wine their​​ sommelier​​ had been​​ pushing​​ during​​ their​​ tasting.​​ 

“Curt too?”​​ Walter asked.

“Yeah.​​ I needed​​ a little break from him​​ anyhow.​​ Not that we’re​​ not​​ getting along, I’m just used to being alone​​ more, where he likes to​​ always​​ be in on the action. While​​ we​​ might​​ be brother and sister,​​ I’m​​ discovering we’re​​ also​​ very​​ different people. Anyway...” she held out the bottle to​​ Walter,​​ “...if​​ a​​ soak in the river didn’t​​ help​​ find an explanation, maybe​​ a soak​​ in​​ this​​ wine​​ bottle can.​​ Care​​ to split it and​​ talk​​ last night​​ over​​ with me?​​ Two heads are better than one you know.​​ Also I restocked on joints in Amsterdam.”​​ She reached into her jacket pocket and handed him one.​​ 

He smiled.​​ “How do you always know the way to my heart Kourtney?”​​ he​​ said​​ taking​​ it. “And​​ I suppose talking to someone is probably a better way of going about​​ it.”

“Good,” she said as she began uncorking the wine. “I didn’t bring glasses, so hopefully​​ you’re​​ okay​​ with drinking a sixty-euro bottle of wine​​ from the spout.”

Wine’s more about who than what you drink it with​​ anyway,​​ Walter said lighting the joint, then taking​​ a hit before passing it to​​ Kourtney​​ in exchange for the bottle.

Zum wohl​​ to that,” she said inhaling a toke then exhaling it out.​​ “So,​​ what the hell happened last night?​​ Curt and I were really worried​​ this morning​​ when no one had heard from you, especially since we ate​​ all​​ those​​ hash​​ brownies we didn’t know were hash brownies. But after that Flugel stuff the boat captain gave us,​​ we​​ kind of blacked out​​ for a bit.”

“Boat captain?”​​ he said.​​ 

“Yeah from the canal cruise. You don’t remember​​ the cruise? Wow, you were as fucked up as you looked. We just thought you were joking.”

“I kind of remember the canal cruise now​​ that you mention it.​​ We went to a sex show after, right?”

“Yeah, where you​​ ate that​​ banana.”

“Yes, I definitely remember the banana. But everything after is a blank​​ until I came to at some rave.”

“Walter!​​ We were just a floor above​​ the rave.​​ Remember we went to that​​ three-story club​​ with​​ a rave on the first floor, a rock​​ club​​ on the second, and​​ a​​ hip-hop​​ club​​ on the third? That’s where you​​ said you had to use the ‘restroom’ then just disappeared. But you were​​ just downstairs​​ from us.”

“I don’t remember any rock club,” he said,​​ “but​​ I was looking for a​​ restroom​​ when I came to,​​ however,​​ security​​ kicked me out before I could​​ find one.”

“You got kicked out?​​ For what?”

He​​ chuckled.​​ “Um, pulling​​ my dick out​​ on the dancefloor,” he said,​​ “but there’s much more​​ to it than that...”


“Holy shit,”​​ Kourtney​​ said​​ after​​ Walter​​ spilled all the beans of the evening, every event, feeling, and fear.​​ “That’s one hell of a night.​​ And you have no way of getting ahold of​​ Shiva?​​ Not even​​ Facebook?”

“She’s not on any social media,” Walter said. “She​​ has to keep a low profile since she’s an illegal alien. All she had was a burner phone which I stupidly never got the number to​​ . . . I have to go back to Amsterdam. I’m​​ going to ask Anna tomorrow if there’s any​​ way​​ I can hitch a ride on another bus or take a train back.​​ I’m not supposed to be here. There’s no reason for me to continue this trip.”​​ 

“Hold on,” Kourtney​​ said​​ putting​​ a hand​​ in the air. “Don’t​​ throw​​ away​​ the trip just yet. I mean, she could be getting deported​​ as we speak. Then instead of being across an ocean from you, she’ll only be across a state​​ once you’re back home. Maybe just wait until​​ then​​ to find her. The internet’s a lot better place to find people than IRL anyway.​​ It’s​​ where I found my brother.​​ Do​​ you really think​​ going back to Amsterdam and​​ turning yourself into the police is a good idea?​​ What if you don’t find her, or even worse you get jailed and miss your flight home?”

“I know,​​ I know.​​ But​​ something’s​​ just​​ telling​​ me to go back. And as much as I never trusted gut feelings before,​​ with her​​ everything is​​ different.​​ I don’t know how to explain it.​​ As much​​ as​​ I thought people brainwash themselves into thinking someone’s ‘the one’, I​​ one-hundred percent​​ believe it now.”

Kourtney snickered.

“What?”​​ Walter​​ asked.

It’s just obvious you’ve never​​ really​​ been in love​​ then,” she said.​​ “Because ‘the one’ is bullshit.​​ No one is meant for each other.​​ Only in poetry is love undyingly perfect. In the real world,​​ it’s​​ extremely​​ complicated,​​ full of​​ sacrifices,​​ and most of the time romanceless, but that’s​​ how​​ it​​ makes us better​​ people.​​ When you first fall in love with someone,​​ all you see is a​​ romanticized version of who they really are; you see their​​ best​​ qualities first.​​ It takes time to​​ chip away at this façade and​​ see​​ the​​ real,​​ imperfect person beneath, but that’s​​ when love’s magic​​ really​​ starts to work.​​ You’re​​ going to​​ have to​​ figure out​​ how to deal​​ with​​ someone​​ who’s not​​ completely compatible​​ with you​​ sexually,​​ emotionally,​​ and/or​​ philosophically, and they’ll have to do the same of you. But this friction​​ is what​​ strengthens​​ and transforms​​ you both​​ into​​ something closer to​​ those idealized versions of yourselves you both initially fell in love with,​​ because ideally,​​ you​​ both​​ don’t want to let the other person down.​​ Granted, there will be certain flaws you’ll​​ have to accept,​​ and you’ll need to figure out what and how many flaws are worth the price of love, but as weird as it sounds, balanced friction​​ really​​ is true love​​ in the end.

“But I fell in love with Shiva because she was imperfect,” Walter said, “as imperfect as me.​​ She​​ was perfectly imperfect.”

Kourtney​​ halfway rolled her eyes and​​ gave him​​ a​​ smile. “Yes,” she said, “but you are still using the word​​ perfect to describe her, so I still don’t think you understand yet.​​ Also,​​ and​​ I’m​​ not​​ sure if you remember telling me on the canal cruise or not,​​ but​​ didn’t​​ you​​ fall​​ in love​​ with Amber​​ over sharing your depression together?​​ I’m sure you thought​​ she was ‘perfectly imperfect’ at first​​ also.”

“I told you​​ about​​ that?”​​ he said astonished.

“Yes, you told me a lot about Amber. In fact, she was almost all you talked about​​ last night​​ before​​ we lost you.”


Really​​ . . .​​ Anyway,​​ what​​ I’m trying to say​​ is,​​ love at first sight might exist, but true love always takes time​​ to find.​​ Also, life is filled with many shots at love. What’s more important is knowing where to aim. So even if Shiva doesn’t turn out to be your ‘one’, I guarantee another ‘one’ will​​ eventually​​ come along.”

“Yes,” Walter said,​​ still looking​​ slightly conflicted.​​ “But right now​​ all I can think about is her. I just want more time, that’s all; more​​ time​​ than just one night.”

“Well,” Kourtney​​ replied, “if​​ fate​​ or the universe​​ is​​ really​​ guiding​​ you​​ to Shiva,​​ then​​ it​​ will​​ find a way​​ of giving it to you.​​ But until then, maybe you should get a good night’s worth of sleep. Also, maybe​​ try​​ to​​ enjoy this trip​​ a little.​​ We’re only on the second stop​​ after all.”

“Yeah, you’re right,”​​ he​​ said putting his hands​​ over his​​ face. “I’m in​​ no​​ state of mind​​ to be making​​ decisions​​ right now.”​​ 

“Yes,”​​ Kourtney​​ said, “but also,​​ maybe I​​ am​​ being​​ a little​​ selfish​​ too.​​ I​​ know I’d​​ miss you terribly if you left.​​ You’re the only real friend​​ I​​ have other​​ than my brother on this tour. And I’m not like my brother, I can’t make friends with just anyone.”

“Really?​​ You’d miss me?​​ Someone you’re​​ always​​ having to​​ talk off ledges?”

“It’s​​ better than having a boring friend,” she​​ said​​ smiling.​​ “And talking to you has​​ put​​ my problems with my brother​​ in perspective. So in some way, without even trying, you​​ also talked me off a ledge—or​​ maybe​​ just a small mound. And​​ you can’t​​ force that​​ kind​​ of​​ chemistry.”

“Well,​​ I think the wine deserves some credit too.” Walter​​ shook​​ the nearly empty bottle. “But regardless Kourtney,” he said putting an arm around her, “I’m​​ the luckiest person in the world to have found you.​​ And​​ uh...” his​​ arm retreated​​ back, “I​​ mean​​ that in​​ the most​​ strictly platonic​​ way.”

She​​ laughed.​​ “I know that Walter,” she said​​ pulling his arm​​ back​​ around her.​​ She​​ then​​ pushed back and they both​​ fell​​ onto​​ the grass, resting​​ their heads upon​​ one another.​​ “But it​​ is really romantic​​ though, isn’t it?”​​ she​​ said.

“What is?”​​ he asked.

“This:​​ the wine, the stars, the castles glowing like candles around us.”

“Yes,​​ I guess​​ it is,” he said looking around.​​ “Too​​ bad it’s being wasted on us​​ though.”

“Why’s​​ that?” she said.​​ Romance can be just as equally appreciated between friends. At​​ least there’s someone to share it with. That’s the most depressing part of being alone. Lifes no different than a memory,​​ and you can’t share a memory with anyone but yourself.​​ So​​ at least​​ tonight​​ will never be​​ just​​ a memory.”​​ She​​ then​​ kissed him on the cheek. “I love you Walter.”

He kissed her on the cheek back. “I love you too Kourtney. What I did to deserve your​​ love​​ I’ll never know.​​ I guess somebody up there still likes me.”








The Silver Year: Chapter 7

Chapter​​ 7

A Boy at Heart



APRIL​​ 2012


“What stays with you most from that day?”​​ she asked​​ sitting on the sofa across from​​ him, pen​​ circling her open​​ notebook.

“It wasn’t seeing him dead,”​​ Walter​​ said.​​ “In fact,​​ he looked quite peaceful.” Her pen began​​ scratching​​ at the pace of his speech across the page. “He​​ even had​​ this​​ smile on his face​​ . . . It was when they put him in a body bag.​​ That faceless bundle of flesh and bone will haunt me forever.​​ It’s amazing the​​ guilt you suddenly feel for being alive when face-to-face with someone who no longer has that privilege.”

“Why would you feel guilt?”​​ she asked.

“I wasn’t always the nicest to​​ Brian.”

“You two didn’t get along?”

“Hardly ever.”

“Why was that?”

“I suppose egos got in the way. We just didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things.”

“What were your last moments with him​​ like?”

“Um…” Walter’s fingers unthinkingly began to fidget in an effort to fight his natural urge to always tell the truth​​ even when he didn’t have to.​​ “I... I... I...​​ Do I have to tell you?”

Her​​ bucktooth grin flashed beneath her​​ chipmunk-like cheeks,​​ making​​ her button nose​​ crinkle​​ adorably​​ between her doting, big,​​ brown eyes.​​ “You don’t have to say anything you don’t want to,”​​ she​​ said. “Remember you reached out to me.​​ This is your story​​ Walter,​​ not Quinn Quark’s, Cirkus’s, or anyone else’s.​​ No​​ one knows about this interview but us.”

Maybe it was​​ the​​ disarming​​ English accent, but​​ somehow she’d​​ become his closest counselor and was pulling things out of him that had long been sewn up, when only an hour earlier, she’d been nothing but a stranger—well not exactly. Francis Jones was​​ Rolling Stone’s foremost​​ reporter, and there was a reason why.

However,”​​ Francis​​ said,​​ I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t ask. A lot of people want to know what happened that night.”

“And so​​ would I,” Walter said.​​ “But​​ I was pretty​​ much blacked out​​ by the time​​ ‘it’​​ happened, so yeah...​​ Um, do​​ you mind?”​​ he​​ said eyeing a bottle of Jameson​​ and an​​ ice bucket​​ filled with mixers​​ on the coffee table.

“Go ahead,” she said.​​ “That’s why it’s there.” She flashed​​ him​​ another​​ grin.

He poured himself a drink,​​ then leaned back in​​ his​​ armchair.​​ The​​ tranquil​​ glow of​​ Francis’s​​ living room​​ fireplace​​ was​​ dangerously​​ homey,​​ a feeling he hadn’t felt in​​ some time.​​ Although​​ Cirkus​​ had given him some money to get by​​ until the show—what they were​​ promoting as​​ “Quinn Quark’s last and final show”,​​ it was nowhere near enough to get him out of Grandma’s. Also,​​ he was paying for it in other ways.​​ 

Unbeknownst to​​ Walter,​​ his​​ emotional​​ soundcheck​​ performance of “See The Sky About To Rain”​​ had been filmed and recorded. With​​ no single or music video to use​​ for​​ promotion,​​ the​​ label​​ instead​​ pushed​​ the video—one tight shot of​​ his​​ genital-swelling​​ face rolling through the emotions of the song​​ until climaxing in​​ a money shot of tears.​​ Being​​ such an emotional performance​​ and​​ recorded​​ on​​ the day of​​ Perfect Crime’s​​ last​​ performance​​ with Squids,​​ the video​​ quickly​​ became​​ a​​ viral​​ hit​​ amongst​​ rock and indie circles,​​ then​​ spread just​​ as quickly​​ into the general public’s circles, but​​ especially their genitals.​​ The swelling was all anyone​​ could​​ talk about.

After the song became a surprise top ten hit,​​ Quinn Quark​​ was then hailed as the​​ return of the​​ rock star, even though​​ Quinn Quark was supposed to​​ be​​ dead and​​ the​​ song​​ was far from​​ being​​ rock n’ roll.​​ But America wasn’t really interested in rock n’ roll again, just​​ the idea of having​​ a​​ rock star.​​ Rock stars are like cowboys to Americans;​​ mythologized​​ clichés​​ they loved​​ to resurrect​​ over and over again.

Walter set​​ down​​ his drink and cleared his throat.​​ “While it​​ does​​ feel​​ good​​ to finally talk about​​ Squids’s death,”​​ he​​ said,​​ “I’m not sure this is the right​​ place. I’m sorry. I hope you understand.”

“Of course,”​​ Francis​​ said, however, there was​​ a​​ pinch​​ of exasperation on​​ her​​ face.​​ “So...”​​ she​​ turned​​ a​​ page​​ in​​ her notebook, “’s​​ rehearsal​​ going​​ for next month’s show?​​ How’s it been​​ working​​ with​​ Jason?”

“Rehearsals are going great actually. It just feels great to be playing with a band again. I didn’t realize how much I missed it.​​ It’s like not having sex.​​ And Jason, oh man, it’s​​ like a whole​​ new​​ sex​​ now that​​ we​​ have a bassist who can​​ actually​​ play—shit.​​ I​​ shouldn’t have said that—I​​ mean,​​ I​​ didn’t mean to say that.”

You’re​​ fine,​​ Francis said​​ surrendering her pen to the air. “I can leave​​ it​​ outI can leave anything out. This isn’t a live interview. Remember, it’s just​​ us​​ here.​​ 

That’s reassuring, Walter thought. He didn’t have to be perfect. He wasn’t​​ onstage with thousands of eyes​​ stalking​​ him, just two big brown ones; the eyes of​​ a​​ cutesy cartoon forest animal.

“Thanks,”​​ he said. “Um... what I ‘meant’ was, everyone in the band has nothing but the upmost respect for​​ Jason, and it’s inspiring to be playing with someone of his caliber.”

“Does this mean​​ there​​ might be a​​ possibility​​ we’ll​​ see this lineup​​ of Perfect Crime​​ perform again?”​​ Francis​​ asked.

Walter’s​​ face turned sour.​​ No,” he said.​​ Let’s make that perfectly clear.​​ N-O. There will be no Perfect Crime​​ after this show​​ or Quinn Quark.

“But what about your unreleased album,​​ Love Songs in a Minor Crash?”

“I never finished it. And the songs I had​​ written for​​ it, they​​ weren’t​​ right for Perfect Crime.”

“But​​ maybe​​ a solo project?”​​ she asked.​​ 

“Actually, yes,” he said.​​ “I am​​ considering them for​​ a solo project.”​​ 

“Really?”​​ She​​ repositioned​​ herself​​ on the couch, pen ready to transcribe.​​ “What kind of sound is this new project?”​​ 

“Silence,”​​ he answered.​​ Francis’s​​ eyes hung on​​ him​​ for further explanation, but​​ Walter​​ just smiled.

“I’m sorry,” she said,​​ “but​​ I’m not understanding.”​​ 

“It’s a​​ novel,”​​ he said.

“A​​ novel?” She looked to be reshuffling notes in her head.​​ “Why?”

“Personal reasons. But also,​​ I like the privacy of it.​​ With a novel, my​​ physical image​​ doesn’t have to be packaged alongside my art.​​ I​​ also​​ don’t have​​ to relive​​ the emotions​​ of​​ my art night after night​​ on tour.​​ I can just write it, then move onto something else.”

“That’s​​ surprising to hear from someone who seemingly​​ enjoyed​​ performing​​ very much,”​​ Francis​​ said. “What’s​​ this novel​​ about?”​​ 

“Death,​​ life,​​ love, existence—all the typical stuff,”​​ Walter​​ fibbed.​​ So far​​ his​​ novel​​ was about nothing, because​​ other than​​ his​​ lacquered piece of shit​​ that he tore to bits, he’d​​ still​​ written nothing.

“Care to expound​​ a​​ little more?”​​ Her​​ pen​​ rapped​​ frustratedly​​ against her notebook.

“I guess you could also say it’s​​ a revue​​ of sorts,​​ featuring​​ all​​ the women​​ who have shaped​​ me, good and bad.”

“Past lovers?”


“Can you tell me about​​ some of​​ them? Your love life is something of a mystery to most people.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Francis’s button nose crinkled​​ sharply​​ and her lips pursed into a taut circle.​​ “Okay Mister Huxley,” she said, “well,​​ where do you want to go,​​ because I’m not having​​ much​​ luck driving?”

“Anywhere​​ but​​ my past,”​​ he said.

“Okay,​​ let’s​​ continue with​​ the future​​ then. This novel you’re working on, when can​​ we expect it?”

“Sometime,​​ but you won’t​​ know​​ it.​​ I’m releasing it under​​ a​​ penname.”

“Why​​ is that?”

“Because the​​ book​​ can’t make it on the back​​ of​​ my music career.​​ I couldn’t​​ take myself seriously​​ as a writer​​ if​​ it​​ did.​​ That’s why people can’t know I wrote it.”

“So will anyone ever know​​ the author’s true identity?”

“God, I hope not. All I want is to disappear into​​ obscurity after this​​ farewell​​ show.”​​ 

Francis sighed​​ sympathetically​​ as​​ her demeanor shifted gears.​​ “That’s​​ a shame​​ you want to disappear from the world​​ Walter,” she said,​​ “because the world really​​ seems​​ to​​ like you.​​ A​​ lot of great things​​ have been said about you, you know?​​ Some​​ have​​ even called​​ you​​ genius.”

“Genius?”​​ he​​ said chuckling.​​ “I’m a​​ failed​​ songwriter. The one hit song I have is a cover.

“Oh, but I’m not talking about your music career,” she said.​​ “I agree your accomplishments in music have been blown out of proportion.”

Francis then​​ set down​​ her notebook and pen on the coffee table, then​​ picked up a​​ thick​​ binder from the floor​​ Walter​​ hadn’t noticed and​​ opened​​ it​​ across her lap.​​ “Actually,”​​ she​​ said. “I’m​​ talking about your work in physics.”

“Physics?”​​ Walter​​ said.​​ “I was a C-average physics student.”

“Yes, that’s what you tell everyone...” she said thumbing through the binder’s plastic-sheathed pages, “...but​​ there’s also​​ much​​ more to the story.​​ I hope you don’t mind​​ revisiting​​ your past again—just​​ briefly,​​ but​​ I​​ spoke​​ to​​ one of​​ your​​ professors​​ at UCLA,​​ an Alan Schechter,​​ and​​ he​​ said before​​ your junior and senior years,​​ you were the​​ most promising physics student the department had seen in some time.​​ He​​ also​​ showed me your papers. And while he admitted there was a lot wrong with them, he​​ also said…” She read from​​ the binder: “…‘They’re the type of creative​​ genius​​ of someone who could revolutionize physics.’ And​​ that​​ your choice to apply that creative genius to rock music was​​ ‘an unfortunate​​ result of being young and​​ disproportioned​​ in​​ blood flow between​​ brain and penis.’”

Walter laughed. “Sounds like Schechter,” he said.​​ “But​​ what does​​ he​​ know?​​ He was a great teacher, but a failed theorist himself.​​ A whole life wasted chasing dead-end theories. I’m sorry, but I didn’t​​ want to end up like him. He’s gone so crazy now​​ he’s trying to convince naive journalists who haven’t the slightest clue about theoretical physics what’s going to revolutionize it.​​ Probably because they’re the only ones who will take him seriously now.”

“You​​ don’t have to be condescending,”​​ Francis​​ said​​ under her breath.​​ 

“Condescending?” Walter said. “Okay, what’s the uncertainty principle?”​​ She​​ shrugged.​​ “See,​​ naïve journalist who doesn’t​​ know shit​​ about physics.​​ Not condescending,​​ just​​ the truth.”

“But still,​​ you don’t have to be​​ a...”​​ She tried to come up with a​​ polite​​ rebuttal, but went blank.​​ 

A what?” Walter continued​​ his charge.​​ An asshole? Is that what you want to call me? Go ahead,​​ I’ve been called worse. However,​​ the real asshole here​​ is​​ you.​​ This entire interview you’ve been trying​​ to​​ trap me​​ because​​ you​​ thought​​ by putting together some extensive book report on my life you’d​​ know it better than​​ me.​​ And by the way, just because​​ I’m​​ somewhat​​ famous​​ now,​​ that​​ doesn’t mean you have an all-access​​ pass to riffle through my past

“Actually,​​ it​​ does,” she interrupted.​​ “Maybe I don’t know​​ ‘shit about physics’,​​ but​​ I do know​​ shit​​ about media law.”​​ 

“Whatever,” he said.​​ “I’m done.​​ If you think you’re going to prod any more information​​ out of​​ me,​​ you’re nuts.”​​ Walter​​ stood from his chair and walked to​​ the​​ front​​ door.

Seriously?​​ Francis​​ said. “You asked​​ me​​ for this interview.​​ I thought you wanted to introduce​​ the ‘real you’ to the world?​​ But how am I supposed to do that when you won’t tell me anything​​ about you?

“Well,​​ apparently you already​​ know​​ everything,” he said. “What else do you need to know?”

“How about why someone so gifted continually​​ throws away​​ his​​ talents?​​ Songwriter, physicist, and now you tell me writer. You’re so much more than Quinn Quark​​ the one-hit rock star​​ and I​​ just​​ want​​ the world​​ to​​ know.​​ Isn’t that what you want​​ too, for people to know the​​ ‘real you’?”

Walter stood silent, contemplating.​​ “No​​ actually,” he​​ then​​ said.​​ “I’m sorry​​ Francis,​​ but​​ this​​ was​​ a mistake.”​​ He opened her front door​​ and began to leave.

“Walter stop,” she​​ begged​​ as she ran to the front door. “Why?”

“Because​​ the real me is not who you think​​ he​​ is. Wanna know the truth? I have no​​ novel, not a single​​ page. So cross off writer.” He slashed an​​ invisible pen over the air. “And some crackpot ideas I had while smoking too much pot in college doesn’t classify me as a physicist either; in fact, it’s just an​​ insult to the field.​​ So we’ll cross​​ that​​ off too.​​ I guess I’ll give you​​ songwriter, but​​ as​​ of next month I’m officially resigned of that title​​ also. So there it is: I’m​​ an over-hyped,​​ title-less nobody who can’t commit himself to​​ anyone or​​ anything; just a big fucking face for people to​​ talk​​ about, that’s all.​​ You know, sometimes I wish nature hadn’t made me so brilliant if that’s what I really am. It’d sure make things a lot easier. I envy the average man; the person who can float through life blissfully ignorant​​ of the world,​​ because... because​​ fuck the world!”

The front door​​ then​​ struck​​ its frame like a thunderbolt.​​ 


Walter​​ tried to​​ walk​​ to his car,​​ but​​ only made it to​​ the​​ curb in front of​​ Francis’s​​ house. Her unanswered​​ questions​​ began to​​ sting at him like tiny ants.

She’s right,” he said​​ sitting, his head tilted to the night sky.​​ But​​ why?​​ . . .​​ Why-why-why-why?​​ Why​​ Walter—or​​ whoever the fuck you are today, why​​ do​​ you​​ always​​ throw away​​ everything good​​ for something uncertain?​​ Physics for rock stardom, rock stardom for writing, Amber for​​ Catherine—what’s next and when will it stop?​​ But​​ please, just stop. I can’t take any​​ more pain.

A​​ cycle​​ then​​ began​​ to formulate.​​ Every​​ time something became too​​ comfortable,​​ he abandoned it​​ for​​ something new and more​​ challenging.​​ He couldn’t stand​​ to be comfortable, to be stable—to be bored.

“But then who am I?”​​ he​​ asked. “What am​​ I? Can I still be​​ or should​​ I​​ be asking these questions at​​ twenty-five? I can’t keep going around like this,​​ flirting with everything life has to offer. I have to stick to something, stick to someone. I have to be an adult . . . But I like new things. I like to dream. I like change.​​ I like being​​ single.​​ Why does it have to stop?​​ Why does life have to revolve around one resolute identity?”​​ 

The dilemma of being twenty-five.​​ Walter​​ had grown into a man, but was still very much a boy​​ at heart.

“Who are you talking to?”​​ Francis​​ asked​​ from​​ her doorway.​​ Walter stirred​​ to​​ his​​ feet​​ in surprise.

“Um…​​ myself,”​​ he replied.

“You realize that’s kind of​​ crazy,​​ right?”

“Guilty as charged,”​​ he said then sat back down.

She​​ scoffed and​​ shook her head.​​ “So what’s your deal?” she​​ said. “Do you really hate being famous?​​ Does it​​ really​​ drive you​​ that​​ crazy that​​ people recognize you​​ sometimes; that you impact their lives?”

“Just because people recognize me doesn’t mean I affect​​ their​​ lives.​​ I recognize Kim Kardashian, but if she​​ never existed​​ I think my world would be no different.”​​ 

But​​ you​​ don’t​​ represent the world​​ Walter.​​ Kim Kardashian may have no impact on you, but she sure​​ does on the rest of the world—and that’s important. If there’s one thing I’ve learned​​ as an​​ actual​​ writer,​​ it’s that​​ you can’t be so consumed in your own world that you​​ forget about​​ the​​ actual​​ one. Kim Kardashian, as unfortunate as it may sound​​ to you, is the real world.

“Since I’ve already tanked my interview...”​​ Francis​​ continued,​​ putting her hands to her hips, “I’m just going to be brutally honest with you​​ now:​​ you​​ need​​ to​​ buck the fuck up and stop being such a whiny bitch.​​ Yeah, you’ve been dealt some​​ bad​​ cards​​ lately, but​​ there’s a lot worse curses that could be placed on​​ you​​ than being intelligent,​​ multi-talented,​​ good-looking,​​ and famous.​​ Also,​​ if​​ you​​ think writer is the answer to freeing you​​ from​​ fame, you’ll be sorely mistaken.​​ If your intention is to have an impact on people, whether it be through a song, a​​ story, or​​ even​​ a​​ theory, you’re​​ also​​ going to have to deal with them—deal with being famous.​​ People​​ don’t connect with ideas​​ insomuch as they​​ connect with​​ other​​ people.”

Her voice then softened as she walked and sat beside him. “And I know at one point you had no problem connecting with other people,” she said,​​ “especially on a stage.​​ You also loved doing interviews. But I can understand why you’re not so trusting of people now and maybe don’t want to do​​ one. You’re still healing and​​ people aren’t making it easy, including me.”

“No...” Walter said​​ quietly. “You were just trying to do your job, the job I asked you to do.”

Thank you for understanding . . . So, are you going to let me finish it, or am I​​ going to​​ have to​​ call the cops​​ and tell them some madman is talking​​ to himself in​​ my front lawn?